Sunday, 25 August 2013

Episode-by-episode: The Hollow

This episode was based on the novel The Hollow, first published in 1946. It was adapted for television by Nick Dear and directed by Simon Langton.

Script versus novel
Nick Dear does an excellent job with the adaptation  of this particular novel. The script has the perfect balance between melancholy, humour, seriousness and Poirot-ness. Dear deletes the character of David Angkatell (and he's not missed). He adds an opening scene with Henrietta Savernake and John Christow (which makes perfect sense) and some arrival scenes for Poirot (delightful). Also, Poirot gets invited to dinner the evening before the lunch, a small change which, again, makes sense, and the murder weapon isn't discovered outside his cottage (thankfully - that never made sense to me). Moreover, Poirot gets the horse clue right not because it's like the Horse of Troy, but because the person in question explains that she hates horses (a much more satisfying reason, if you ask me, and very much in keeping with Poirot's sense of psychology). Dear also removes Edward's attempted suicide, compresses the scenes with Edward and Midge in London (but they are referred to in the dialogue), removes Henrietta's visit to Mrs Crabtree, and changes Gerda's death (SPOILER she goes to John's study and takes potassium cyanide). All in all, though, the adaptation is remarkably faithful and beautifully written, possibly one of the best episodes of the entire series. I'm always delighted when Christie's stories are taken seriously.

Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Langton's direction is a joy to watch, especially the opening sequence and the autumnal feel to every shot. I particularly like the staged shots of the pool, perfectly recreating the sense of artificiality / theatricality Poirot comments on in the novel. The locations used for the episode are perfect, too. Duchess Street in London was used for Christow's Harley Street home. The soundtrack is wonderful, Gunning outdoes himself. The beautiful main theme of the episode is available on his album The Film and Television Music of Christopher Gunning.

Characters and actors
Suchet's Poirot is excellent in this one. I always enjoy the cases in which Poirot's interest in psychology comes to the fore, and this is certainly one of the best on that account. Also, we have his dislike of the countryside, his breakfast (the little blobs of jam on the toast) and his sense of justice, truth, right and wrong (as displayed in the well-scripted conversation with Henrietta). The guest actors work wonderfully together as an ensemble, so it's almost impossible to pick a favourite, especially with veterans like Sarah Miles, Edward Fox and Edward Hardwicke on the cast list.


  1. Stuart Farquhar9 March 2015 at 22:29

    Christie said she ruined her own book by involving Poirot, but I think the opposite: she ruined it by NOT involving him. He barely appears, does nothing of any significance and doesn't even get to solve the murder (Gerda and Henrietta explain it, and there's loads he hasn't even guessed!) And it's a murder that feels incidental to the soap opera of the Angkatells. The adaptation at least addresses these issues by making both Poirot and the murder more central, but it's still one of those murders where the person you thought was responsible all along really was responsible, and there's absolutely no surprise to the solution. It is, however, a particularly good cast. Sarah Miles in particular is exactly the Lucy from the book.

    It seems an odd omission that the episode doesn't begin with John and Veronica twelve years ago (as in John's reverie from the book), and similarly that it doesn't include the early clue about Gerda letting people think she's stupider than she is (which appears at both the beginning and the end of the book but only at the end of the episode). But the early search of Gerda's leatherwork bag is an improvement on something that appears out of nowhere at the end of the book.

  2. this adaptation (not the book which is simply absurd), works very well as very good drama, even a good classical tragedy. acting , art direction, and production values, all support that. excellent!

    but it(both adaptation and story from book) is awful as a murder mystery and solution; irrational and not believable.
    to take just 1 absurd instance, there was no need to get others involved. henrietta, if she has witnessed it, merely had to keep her mouth shut, or if her presence in pavilion is proved with doodle(impossible!), merely deny she saw the actual firing of gun since she was looking in the other way.
    two gun trick would have got murderer off. and would a murderer keep the holster once she was lucky enough to get it off the murder scene undetected, esp if she had sense enough to cut it and disguise it as leather work at first. burn it, it throw it in a dump, etc etc. why not? that it was in her possession was the only thing that might convict her, but even with that conviction would be highly doubtful.

    of course her own psychology matters, and would probably result in same outcome, her suicide.(and henrietta's guilt may result in her desire to help cover up). but all that is drama and tragedy. not murder mystery.

  3. The Hollow to me has always been a visual delight. The book with its wonderful description of The Hollow and Einswick (did I spell that correct?) had left an indelible impact on my teenage mind (for instance, the green sunlight filtering through the leaves). The movie has equally stunning visuals and the bgm is poignant to the point of being heart-rending. It can hardly be called a mystery, but simply for the deep aura of autumn melancholy this movie (and book) remains one of my favourites.

  4. Sceneries, the music, the tempo, actors, all beautiful. A surprising goof: when Dr Christow is parking his car in front of Henrietta'a home, we can see a modern grey Mercedes right at the end of the street. They forgot to have it removed for a story set in the 30's or 40's. PL

  5. Well, I loved the episode for the drama and the emotions expressed, but as a mystery, I guess it had a few loopholes. The most perplexing of which , for me, is why was the murder weapon hidden in the head of the horse? And why was there a head of the horse in the first place, when Henrietta hated horses and dogs? If she hurriedly built a model, then why a horse's head? To give a hint to Poirot, maybe? Was Henrietta so guilt-ridden that she wanted the murder to be solved?


About Me

I'm a passionate fan of Poirot, Agatha Christie and the ITV series. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or requests, please e-mail me at, post a comment on one of my blogs, or get in touch on Twitter @pchronology. (I used to call myself HickoryDickory)